Why You Can’t Legally Call Organic Weed ‘Organic’

Article by Daniel Oberhaus, Motherboard

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Last week, eight out of nine states with cannabis on the ballot voted yes on pot, which puts the total number of states with legal medicinal and/or recreational pot at 27. Yet as the newcomers to the world of legal ganja are about to find out, voting cannabis into a state’s constitution is the easy part—the hard work starts the day after, as legislators race to hash out a regulatory framework before cannabusinesses begin to open their doors to the public in the coming months.

Whether it’s figuring out dosing standards or banking solutions, there’s a lot to be discussed when you’re trying to move a product from the black market into the light. Of particular concern is regulating pesticide use for cultivators, a task that is generally handled by federal agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency for all agricultural products except cannabis.

Because cannabis is illegal on a federal level these agencies aren’t able to prescribe safe growing standards the way they would for any other agricultural product being grown in the US. This puts the burden on state regulatory agencies to develop their own agricultural standards for cannabis—but until a few months ago these standards didn’t exist anywhere. In most states with legal pot, they still don’t.

Take California, for instance. Although it was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996, California had no state-wide oversight bodies for cannabis production until last year. That means for almost two decades, growers could use whatever types of pesticide they wanted on their cannabis because there was nobody to tell them not to—which is especially troubling when the plant you’re growing is being used as a medicine.

This lack of oversight and knowledge about what was going in their bud understandably made consumers nervous and cannabis cultivators took notice. In 2004, one California grower reached out to Chris van Hook, a veteran of the USDA-certified organics industry, to find out what it would take to get their buds registered as a USDA organic agricultural product to assuage consumer fears about tainted bud.

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